- GolfRSA photo
The Africa Amateur Stroke Play Championship, being played at Leopard Creek Country Club, was a one-man show early into the third round.
Then, the player of the tournament up to that point, Ryan van Velzen stumbled with a sextuple-bogey six on the seventh and the pressure was on.
On a tough day – tight pin positions, tees set back and a swirling, gusting wind up to 30 km per hour making club selection something of a lottery – Casey Jarvis and Samuel Simpson made experience and skills count with a pair of two-under-par 70s.
Van Velzen slumped to 11-over 83, but such was his dominance in the opening two rounds that he still shared the 54-hole lead in the individual 72-hole tournament with Martin Vorster at three-under-par.
The pair holds a two-stroke edge over reigning Amateur Champion James Sugrue of Ireland, who endured woes of his own in the third round with a triple-bogey six on the 16th setting back his charge for the lead.
The shot of the day came from Ireland's Caolan Rafferty, whose one-under 71 included an unlikely hole-in-one at the par three 12th.
Rafferty’s second ace of his career in tournament play came from a pitching wedge from 145 yards.
“I got the yardage, picked a club, and tried to hit a shot,” he said. “It was one of those funny ones. I didn’t really catch it and turned away in a bit of disgust. As I was turning back, I heard my playing partner telling it to go in, and I was like, ‘Sorry, that can’t be right!’ And as I turned round, it just disappeared!”
It was a bright spot in his round and helped him to one of just seven under-par totals on the day. He made the ace, two birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey for a scorecard that looked relatively clean compared to some.
Van Velzen was cruising along at level par after the sixth and then simply imploded. “I was playing nicely up until then,” he said. “I tried to go for the flag, and just came out of it and blocked it right in the water. I dropped one and goofed it in the water again; dropped another and hit it in the water again; knocked it on and two-putted.
“That just rattled me for the rest of the round. I didn’t really know what was going to come when I hit it. It was like a lucky packet,” he laughed.
Voster also found conditions tough, but he kept himself in the game as he made three birdies in eight holes coming home to offset the three bogeys and two doubles. “It was a grind today,” he said. “I actually hit the ball pretty well, but some shots just didn’t go my way and I ended up making doubles. In the conditions, I’m happy with the way I actually played.”
Like many of the overseas players, Sugrue found conditions made playing well difficult.
“It was also extremely warm,” he remarked after his round of six-over 78. “The course was playing very tough and there were some very cheeky pin positions. Probably not as tough as my score suggests, because I didn’t play great. Birdies were hard to come by, and I only made one today compared to about eight yesterday.”
Jarvis is one stroke behind Sugrue in fourth going into the final round, and Simpson shared fifth with Great Britain’s Olly Huggins who carded a level-par 72, Rafferty and Duminy.
DAY TWO REPORT
Benoni junior Ryan van Velzen finished a yawning seven shots ahead of reigning Amateur champion James Sugrue from Ireland and compatriot Martin Vorster at the 36-hole mark of the African Amateur Stroke Play Championship.
The 18-year-old eagled the 18th at Leopard Creek for a second day in a row to post a six-under-par 66 on Tuesday that kept him in the top spot at 14-under 130.
Teeing off on the first in the second round, he cruised his way to five-under without a dropped shot in sight up to the 15th hole. He made his only bogey of the day on the challenging par-three 16th, and more than redeemed himself with that eagle which exemplified his approach to playing the course which can seem intimidating.
“I’m not really used to shooting these kinds of scores,” he said. “I can do it in social rounds, but not too often in tournaments. But I’m just not making mistakes at the moment and I’m really happy with the way I’m playing.”
His seven-stroke lead at the halfway mark was assisted by two of the players who looked as if they could stay in touch with him.
Mallow’s Sugrue got his second round to seven-under through 16 holes and 10-under for the tournament. Then he made a triple-bogey seven on the eighth and signed off with a 68 for a share of second at seven-under.
“I played very, very well for 17 holes,” he said. “Even when I made the triple, I thought I hit it a good way down there. It just crept into the bunker. I thought I hit an okay approach and it rolled into the bunker. I won’t talk about the rest,” he added of the times the ball rolled off the front of the green before he could hole it.”
The other player who could have been closer was countryman Christo Lamprecht, who made double-bogey on 16 before coming home on one-under 71 for the round and six-under for the tournament.
He was in fourth place on his own after his round.
“I played pretty nicely today,” said the Southern Cape golfer. “Yesterday was just better scoring, but I felt like I managed to play really good golf. I was three-under with three holes to go and hit just one bad shot – the first really bad shot of the week – and I got punished for it.”
The man who did play himself into a share of second was Toyota Junior Golf World Cup captain Martin Vorster.
The GolfRSA National Squad member carded the second-best round of the day behind Van Velzen with his five-under 67. He went bogey-free to the turn at 18, and made four more on his way home.
There were bogeys on three and seven which left him further back from the lead than he would have liked. “I played really solid from tee to green,” said Voster. “The putter was a bit cold in the beginning, but it got hot towards the end. I’m going to have to go a bit lower. I like chasing and knowing that I need birdies to catch up.”
He will have it all to do, because Van Velzen is going to take the same approach. “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and shoot another low one tomorrow,” he said.
DAY ONE REPORT
Ekurhuleni junior Ryan van Velzen started the Africa Amateur Stroke Play Championship on Monday like a house on fire as he carded a superlative eight-under-par 64 around Leopard Creek Country Club, giving him a three-stroke edge over his nearest competitor.
Starting on the 10th, Van Velzen birdied his first two holes, made two more on the 13th and 14th, before rounding out a dream opening nine with an eagle on the 18th with its notorious island green, which has seen many a dream round doused in the water.
“The eagle was quite cool, because my playing partner hit it to a foot, and I boxed a 20-footer for eagle straight after him,” he said. “It’s quite a short par-five, but you have to hit it in the fairway, or else you can’t go for it. I was lucky enough to hit in the fairway.”
Although he bogeyed his next hole, the 18-year-old Benoni Country Club member came back immediately with a birdie on the second before two more on six and eight saw him home three shots clear of fellow GolfRSA National Squad member Christo Lamprecht.
Sweden’s Algot Kleen – Van Velzen’s playing partner who hit it to within a foot on 18 – also eagled the par five on his way to five-under-par 67 and second place after the first day’s play.
Ireland’s James Sugrue and South Africa’s Jordan Duminy shared third place with a pair of 69s.
A group of five players were in fifth at two under: Gustav Andersson of Sweden, South Africa’s Martin Vorster and the English duo of Robin Williams and Haider Hussain.
“I’m really happy with my round,” said Van Velzen. “I hit it really well all day and I putted well. I made lots of putts, especially in the beginning of the round. The key to this course is keeping it on the short stuff. You can’t really spin it out of the rough, but if you’re in the fairway you can go at some flags.”
Lamprecht – fourth in 2017 and the runner-up in 2018 – also had just a single bogey on his card for his 67, which came on the short par-four fourth. Three birdies came on the back nine after he also started on the 10th, and three more on two, six and eight completed his scoring.
Kleen’s round was more of a struggle, with three bogeys, an eagle and five birdies dotting his card.
Duminy got it to four-under after starting with three bogeys in his first five holes, but the 2019 Nomads SA Boys U-17 champion quickly regained those lost strokes with three birdies in the four remaining holes to turn level par. He made four more in the next six holes before giving one of the gains back with a bogey on the tough par-three seventh.
“I knew I had two par-fives ahead of me after that start,” said the 17-year-old Louis Oosthuizen Junior Golf Academy member.
“I knew if I could birdie those and just one more, I could start the second nine level. If I could have a good back nine, I could see what happens. It got going on the 15th when I hit a good approach with a three-wood to 40 feet and two-putted, and it got going from there.”
For the leader, it’s about riding his momentum. “I didn’t play too well in the practice round but I found something out there today so I hope I can keep it going tomorrow,” said Van Velzen.